INTERVIEW: Jay Posey, Author of MORNINGSIDE FALL (Legends of the Duskwalker)

Jay Posey is a narrative designer, author, and screenwriter. Currently employed as Senior Narrative Designer at Red Storm Entertainment, he’s spent about 8 years writing and designing for Tom Clancy’s award-winning Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six franchises. He started in the video game industry in 1998, and has been writing professionally for over a decade.

A contributing author to the book Professional Techniques for Video Game Writing, Jay has lectured at conferences, colleges, and universities, on topics ranging from basic creative writing skills to advanced material specific to the video game industry.

He has been described as “fascinating”, “insightful”, “highly entertaining”, “extremely handsome”, and “one of the most dynamic speakers in the Posey household” by parties who may or may not have been biased or himself.

You can follow him on Twitter at @HiJayPosey

The 2nd book in his Duskwalker series, Morningside Fall, just came out, and Jay stopped by to answer a few of my questions…


Kristin Centorcelli: Congrats on the new book, MORNINGSIDE FALL! You have a background in screenwriting and game design, but have you always wanted to write fiction? Will you tell us a little about that progression?

Jay Posey: Thanks so much, and thanks for inviting me to stop by!

Oddly enough, fiction was my first love. Like most writers, creative writing was something I started when I was a kid, but it was always fiction…mostly short stories, with dreams of a novel one day. Even when I decided to try taking writing more seriously, all of the books and courses I bought were to learn about novel writing.

But at some point one of my best buddies and I were sitting around talking about how much we loved movies and somehow we got convinced that we could write a movie together. That was my first foray into screenwriting. Which is funny to say, because of course I still treated screenwriting like it was just a differently-formatted bit of prose. I’m talking HUGE blocks of description. Also, terrible pacing.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t a very good screenplay. But it did open up a couple of doors for me through friends who had friends, and I eventually got put in touch with an amazing writer named Chris Stout who took me under his wing and trained me in the fine art and craft of real actual screenwriting. We ended up co-writing a couple of things together, which gave me excellent experience.

Now, I’ve had a life-long love affair with video games. It’d been a dream of mine to get to make them for a living, and I won’t go into my entire work history here, but after a long and winding road I ended up at Red Storm Entertainment, a game development studio founded by Tom Clancy. That was an exciting opportunity for me, because I’m a huge fan of the Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon franchises. Getting to work on them was literally a dream come true.

While at RSE, I was able to work under the legendary Richard Dansky (who is sort of a godfather of writing in the industry, as well as a published author), and after working in the chaos of game development, I came full circle back around to fiction writing. I’m really blessed to have had so many opportunities, and pretty much all of them came as a direct result of the awesome people I’ve come into contact with.

KC: What inspired you to begin writing THE DUSKWALKER CYCLE (THREE and MORNINGSIDE FALL)?

JP: There are a couple of sides to that story. From a content standpoint, the seed of the story for Three grew out of a desire to tell a story about surrogate fatherhood, and what it might look like for an isolated man to connect with a fatherless child. I knew from the beginning that I wanted a journey story, but it was a couple of years before I ever found the right setting for the tale I wanted to tell.

I had the opportunity back in 2006 to attend a lecture by Vernor Vinge (at a game developers’ conference!), where he talked about emerging technology and some possible places it might lead us. That lecture sparked a lot of ideas that I’d never considered before, which led me to write a short story in a high-tech cyberpunk world. At some point along the way I wondered what that world might look like if it suffered a cataclysm. The Duskwalker world is the result, and I had my setting.

From a professional standpoint, I’d been working as a narrative designer at Red Storm, and I’d come to realize that there were just so many competing demands on story that I didn’t have the creative control I’d hoped I would. The Duskwalker Cycle kind of became my safe place where I could do whatever I wanted to, so it’s been a great creative outlet for me.

KC: Will you tell us a little more about MORNINGSIDE FALL?

JP: Morningside Fall is the second book in the Legends of the Duskwalker series, and picks up about a year after the events of Three. Wren and Cass, now “safely” in Morningside, find themselves confronted with threats against Wren’s life, growing unrest with the increasing presence of the Awakened, and struggles for control of the city.

There’s danger around every corner, and that’s just inside the wall.

Out in the Open, the Weir have begun to change, and their evolution hints at terrible things on the horizon.

KC: What is your writing process like?

JP: It’s still evolving, to be honest. With Three and Morningside Fall, I knew the beginning, the ending, and several key plot points along the way. Then I just sort of jumped in and started writing, letting the story drag me along while I tried to keep it all pointed the right direction. It was fine for Three, when I wasn’t up against a deadline, but I wasn’t as productive as I wanted to be on Morningside Fall, so that was a bit of a slog for me. With my current project, I’m trying to do more genuine outlining up front so I don’t spend as much time sitting there wondering what a particular scene is trying to accomplish. It’s not in my nature to be particularly organized, so I’m wrestling with that a bit, but I think it’ll be for the best in the long run.

KC: Who, or what, has influenced you the most in your writing?

JP: Oof. For a quick, cheap escape, I think I’d say that the biggest influence on my writing has come from all the reading I do. If I were a ninja, this is the point where I’d drop a smoke bomb and vanish.

There are way too many people out there whose work has captured my imagination and made me want to create too; writers, game developers, painters, poets, filmmakers, musicians. But reading has always been particularly fruitful for me. Great books, whether fiction or non-fiction, have a way of kicking my brain into a certain mode. And when an author shows a certain adeptness with language, that tends to have a big impact on me.

On the other hand, my faith is the bedrock of the whole undertaking. I’ve never been a fan of allegory particularly, and I don’t have any interest in trying to proselytize through the stories I write, but I can’t deny that my beliefs have the greatest impact on my writing. Whatever I’m working on, I’m always hoping to have a positive impact on culture.

KC: Worldbuilding is an important part of a series like yours, and in SFF as a whole. What are a few of your favorite literary “worlds”?

JP: Tolkien’s work is at the top of the list for sure (though I have a greater fondness for The Hobbit than for The Lord of the Rings). Also, Barry Hughart’s “Ancient China that never was” is one of my favorites. His books Bridge of Birds, The Story of the Stone, and Eight Skilled Gentlemen are a magical combination of ingredients that just make them a pleasure to read. And, probably unsurprising, William Gibson’s Neuromancer ranks up there too.

KC: What do you enjoy most about reading, and writing, SFF?

JP: I think it’s getting to tackle big ideas at a human level. On one hand, SFF can provide a safe environment to talk about contemporary issues because you can create psychic distance for your audience and enable them to think about things from a different perspective. On the other hand, you can also explore timeless themes through new lenses. As long as the stories are grounded in the characters, there seems to be such power and freedom to do significant work in the genre.

But don’t get me wrong…of course, man, there’s just so much fun to be had in there too. SPACE! SCIENCE! SWORDS! These are awesome things, and they’re just fun to play with. (Except swords, kids, those are tools not toys, don’t play with them!)

KC: Have you read any good books recently? Is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to this year?

JP: Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson has been the thing eating up all my reading time at the moment. I’ve also been splashing in S.C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon, which is excellent. As for down the road, I’m looking forward to Madeline Ashby’s upcoming Company Town, and fellow narrative designer Carrie Patel’s The Buried Life.

Also, pretty much anything Chuck Wendig writes, because Chuck is just awesome.

KC: What’s next for you?

JP: I’m head down in the middle of Book 3 of the Duskwalker cycle at the moment. Some notes are slowly coagulating for a couple of other projects, but finishing up the trilogy is really my focus at the moment.

Thanks so much for having me by!